The following is a photo report (wow, this word makes me think of my youth and those crappy romance photo stories in teen mags) of how I dress my distaff. Please be aware that this is a work in progress and a technique still in development, and that there are probably fifteen gazillion other methods that are at least as suitable as mine, if not better.
I start off with my distaff, which is a stick with a few notches cut in at the top to reduce slippage. The notches are a horizontal cut at the bottom, then a sloping cut downwards to meet the notch, resulting in something like a tiny shelf. Attached to the stick is a linen band about 1.5 m long (I used small copper nails to attach it). The band helps to secure the fibre evenly and give the necessary little friction.
I start by placing the distaff somewhere suitably flat; a table or the floor will do. I’ve chosen mixed brown wool for this, about 42 g of it.
In my experience, you can use the fibre that sticks out from the bottom of each band and the fibre still touching the band, but usually not the fibre sticking out above the top. So I position my wool accordingly: I place the end of my top at the upper edge of the band, put my hand down on the band and pull the top away, leaving a bit of fibre on the band.
I work myself along the band in this way with a first layer of fibre.
I then go back and forth, evenly layering the fibre into the thinner spots, not going too thick with the layers. (I have not gathered enough experience yet to know how much you can load on without it getting awkward.)
I leave the last hand width worth of the band without fibre
and then I start rolling up the distaff.
Rolling is done with only the gentlest pressure, and without tensioning the band (at most, I put on enough tension to just keep it properly straight). You can roll up with tension, but that may prevent you from drafting out easily – I’ve had more success with going easy on the distaff when rolling it.
Roll until you can roll no more, resulting in something like Cousin Itt with a nice headband, and secure the end of the band (I used a modern pin for it here).
That’s it. You can go spin now. The band may shift with spinning, developing into a spiral that sort of droops down the distaff. Thus, after a while of spinning, it might be necessary to adjust the distaff – I do that by gently unrolling and re-rolling the band.
If you try this method or a similar one, I’d be delighted to hear about your experience!